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Where it hurt the Bengal government and what we know

Some of the references in Monday’s high court order which, according to some lawyers, have touched a raw nerve in the Bengal government. The content that appears under the sub-heading ‘What we know’ is compiled by The Telegraph

Court order

49. ...Apart from tendering an apology to his

(Tapas Paul’s) party, nothing of worth has been shown to me that Mr. Paul has tendered a public apology.... I hold that tolerance of activities which are prohibited by law would render the concerned legal provision nugatory and usher in disorder and chaos, which in turn would lead to a lawless society and the legitimacy of the judicial process may come under a cloud if non-compoundable offences were condoned. There is, thus, no question of condoning such serious infringement of law

What we know: Tapas Paul’s “humble apology” was addressed to “all of you” but the letter was circulated by Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy and Trinamul national spokesperson Derek O’Brien. Such an apology-in-absentia is rare in public life, especially in this age of communication. People do make mistakes but when they seek forgiveness, they do so in person, not through a letter distributed like leaflets by party bureaucrats. Paul was admitted to hospital with high blood pressure only on July 6 — four days after the letter was circulated, which suggests he chose to — or he was advised to — steer clear of apologising himself. Also — as the court order noted — Paul did not make any effort to issue a public apology at the site from where he delivered the hate speech. The chief minister also claimed helplessness by wondering aloud: “What will I do,kill him?”

When a chief minister — the highest executive authority of a state — asks such a question and the police sit on a complaint, is it unreasonable to voice fears over law and order and the legitimacy of the judicial process?

Court order

52. Judicial notice could be taken that murder, rape, cruelty, torture, atrocities and other crimes are being perpetrated in this country as never before, thereby disturbing the harmony of society and rendering peace and tranquillity as casualties. There is a feeling of fear and insecurity in the air. Much of these crimes go unpunished because of political patronage. Violence and crime constitute a threat to an established order and are a revolt against civilised society. Those entrusted with maintenance of law and order care less. Abiding by political diktats is considered much more important than the duty they are supposed to perform. Where is the country heading at?

The Supreme Court... has answered that behind the growing lawlessness it could see the looming danger of matsanyaya (in the absence of the king wielding the rod of punishment, the strong devour the weak like big fish eat the smaller fish).

What we know: No one who has lived in the country in the past few years will dispute any of the statements made above. The Paul speech controversy was a golden chance for Mamata Banerjee to prove that she cares about enforcing the law and that the police force that she leads puts duty before political diktats. But the police did nothing. Neither did those who were elected to ensure that the police did their duty. On matsanyaya, Justice Dipankar Dutta was quoting what the Supreme Court said in Prakash Kadam vs Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta, an alleged fake encounter case

Court order

53. ...There has been a rise in shameful speeches delivered by politicians encouraging crime in this State, but in most cases the police has looked the other way.

The apathy and indifference of the police not to swing into action immediatelypoints to the depths of lawlessness that the State has touched. The present caseis no exception

What we know: Anubrata Mondal, Manirul Islam, Tapas Paul.... Speeches by these politicians are well-documented and do not bear repetition. What message other than apathy did the police send to common people on all the three speeches?

Court order

54. The speech delivered by Mr. Paul is outrageous and surpasses all bounds of civility, and it is indeed unfortunate that the matter has travelled to this Court. For the greater interest of the State in general and the people in particular, the civil administration ought to have been well-advised to take action in accordance with law to avoid litigation. The need to be so vocal would not have arisen, but for the irresponsible stand taken by the State....

What we know: A complaint on Paul’s speech was filed on July 1. For the past 28 days, the administration has been claiming it was checking the “veracity”. Nadia superintendent of police Arnab Ghosh said more than once that the complaint was being studied in accordance with the law. On Tuesday — a day after the court order — SP Ghosh said: “The preliminary investigation is still being conducted into the complaint as per the provisions of the law.”

But Paul himself has not questioned the veracity of the footage or the content of the speech that was aired. In fact, he has admitted in his letter of apology that the speech was “deeply insensitive”. Justice Dutta’s order also says: “Since none of the respondents have seriously disputed the assertions (in the writ petition), it would be safe to proceed on the impression that no incorrect representation of facts had been made by the petitioner.”

Yet, the government did not articulate its stand in the court. Justice Dutta’s order says: “I had requested Mr. (Ashok) Banerjee (the government pleader) to let me know the stand of the government in regard to the speech delivered by Mr. Paul. No clear-cut answer was given by him.”

Justice Dutta’s order makes it clear that the anguished court was compelled to make the observations because of the inaction of the administration. In fact, the last line of Paragraph 54 reflects the deep thought and consideration that have gone into the order: “I do sincerely hope that another occasion to deal with such a situation would not arise.”